UNDERSTANDING THE PRISON SOCIETY
It was in the summer of 1977 when I was officially sworn in to work in the prison service as Guidance Psychologist. I was then a 23 year old bachelor, newly transferred from my previous work in a private foreign supervised firm (Mead Johnson, Phil.). I knew little about the realities of government service, only occasional glimpses of public works and a Hodge podge of what certainty looks like employment from the prism of practical acquaintances. In other words, I was a sophomore when dealing with the difficulties and challenges of public administration. Immersed in civil service, I was completely naive.
After barely half a year in prison work, I matured several folds over and have imbibed greater lessons from the prison community more than those two decades of academic exposure. I became truly human, fully cognizant of my environment, keen and ardent in my desire to absorb deeply what humanity stands for and have learned essentially what makes a person totally committed to a principle.
Life in Prison
The prison community is not your ordinary neighborhood. It abhors sanity. A lot of people in the free community even wish it never existed. It does not even approximate a regular locality. It is a transitory town where life is spelled backwards and its restrictive interaction goes against the grain of normality. Accordingly, it is home for the scums and dregs of the free community, a cemetery for vanished souls, a warehouse of emotionally disturbed personalities, a descriptive hell where the future of integrity is lost in the abyss of violent surroundings.
The word trust in this place goes through a rigid filtration process since the environment breeds not only discontent but wholesale deception. Friendship goes hand in hand with treachery. Love is mistaken for hatred. Truth is manufactured and faith a matter of conjecture. Corruption is kids play and violence the recourse in every interaction.
Inmates conjure life in a manner they wanted it spent and not how the barb wires intends to maim their being. It is an endless brawl between life and living. Either one perishes in a saintly manner or exists sinfully by going against the prevailing atmosphere. It is a constant struggle which government must have to endure.
But where civilization is, there will be prison.
And this has been my workplace for the last 38 years. From a base position of Psychologist, I rose from the ranks, from supervisory to administrative up until I reached the Division Chief level. A few more facial wrinkles and years in the prison service, I got into the level as the most senior in the higher rank, the ceiling so to speak next to the post of political appointment.
The position afforded me a closer look and an unenviable perspective, not only in appreciating how the prison community pulsates but how individual prisoner subscribes to a demented life. There is no congested spot in the world where the mind is tormented each second as the planet revolves around its axis such as this place. Death and resignation is the only sign where peace can only be achieved.
There are just too many contemplative moments to learn from.
I am now on my way out of the prison service and like a long termer, about to be released too from the community that gave me wholesome knowledge, not satisfaction for witnessing dissatisfaction, but from the daily struggle of spirits battling the demons of frustration and failures, of abuses and derangement, of boredom and endless temptations.
There are too much lessons, ideas and thoughts one derives from the curse of imprisonment. And passing through and undergoing a period in the prison community through immersion is definitely not a course in liberal debasement but a total learning experience on how to read humanity and what it stands for given the pain of losing in the game called life.
The wisdom accumulated in this place is also called Faith.
Sadly, the prison society is not for everyone.